May 16, 2017

Canberra MS Symposium brochure

The question most people want to know after they here the words 'you have MS', is 'What can I do'? The following is a summary of the lecture give to the Canberra MS Symposium on 16 May 2017 by Nicola Graham.

Ms Graham made the controversial statement that there is little evidence supporting MS diet. I say controversial, because the rest of her talk was about good and bad foods, but also because it is a topic that divides the MS patient and health professional communities. Her research and work for MS Australia has identified:

  • key foods to include in your diet
  • the importance of Omega 3 and anti inflammatory foods
  • the need to increase good fats and reduce or eliminate bad fats
  • practice Mindfullness as stress relief

For full disclosure, readers would be aware that I am familiar with the Wahls, OMS and Swank diets/food protocols. I personally had health issues when following the Wahls diet and have had success with Swank since January 2016. I havent felt the need to move to the more restrictive OMS.

So, it was reassuring to note that most her work is consistent with Swank and OMS.

Key Foods

The key foods recommended for multiple sclerosis patients are similar to any good eating programme and national diet standards:

  • fresh fruit and vegetables
  • wholegrain cereals
  • foods high in Omega 3
  • unsaturated fats
  • flaxseed, flaxseed meal, flaxseed oil
  • nuts and seeds
  • lean, unprocessed, grassfed meat
  • low fat yoghurt

What you can see from my following diagram based on the books of Dr Terry Wahls and Dr Roy Swank, the emphasis on fruit, vegetables, nuts and seeds is similar. However, while Swank only allows fish, chicken breast and turkey as low fat, unprocessed meat, the Wahls has a more expanded view of allowable meats and specifically recommends organ meats.

Swank applies daily limits to saturated fats of 15 ml, and unsaturated fats of 30-50 ml. No fat dairy is allowed. OMS does not allow any meat, dairy or eggs. Much of the recommended foods by Wahls exceed the low saturated fat message of Ms Graham and Swank.

Comparison of foods allowed under Swank and Wahls diets

What I found really helpful was to visualise your plate. Make sure that half your plate is full of colourful vegetables, especially deep reds and greens.

Would it be easy to follow Ms Grahan's suggestions? Certainly and I think that for most people, sticking to these rules would get a tick from most doctors

Omega 3 and Anti inflammatory foods

Omega 3 is really really really important. Not just for slowing progression with multiple sclerosis, but also inflammation. Given that almost every chronic health condition has an inflammatory element, Omega 3 is good for almost everyone.

Multiple sclerosis is enough for you? Omega 3 can reduce the risk of cancers and reduce cholesterol.

Grassfed meat is a key food. Did you know that there is a better fat profile and Omega 3 from grass fed meat?

She spoke about Oleic Acid which is a major fat in Myelin. Of course, we all know that Myelin is 75 percent fats and cholesterol and 25 percent protein. So it makes sense to this non-doctor that feeding my Myelin Sheath with Oleic Acid cant be a bad thing. Luckily for us, it is found in salmon, avocado and nuts!

Never heard of Oleic Acid before? You're not the only one. Oleic Acid makes up the majority of oils - olive, pecan, canola, peanut, and macadamia. There can be differing amounts in sunflower oil and some found in grape seed oil, sea buckthorn oil, sesame oil and poppyseed oil

Which brings us to Flaxseed. This is very much in line with OMS diet. Two tablespoons of ground flaxseed mean each day. Or 10-50 ml of flax seed oil. Now I am a true Aussie lass and put my oil on toast and smother it with either Vegemite or jam to hide the taste. But you can put the meal in soups, yoghurt or smoothies. Flaxseed is not just a good oil, but a great way of increasing your Omega 3.

Most of us eat a ratio of Omega 6 to Omega 3 of 6:1. We need to get it closer to 1:1.

When it comes to anti inflammatory, Tumeric is king - and queen and country. But dont forget about citris where there is an abundance of anti inflammatory properties hidden in the white pith and peel. Mental note to self not to just throw them away. The new superfood, pomegranate, is also a great source especially if you dont want to eat heaps of barely cooked broccoli.

Finally, reduce sugary drinks and salt which are both inflammatory.

The fight between Good Fat and Bad Fat

Really, you've heard it all before. When Ms Graham talks about unsaturated fat good, saturated fat bad, I am thinking Swank and OMS have it right.

So if you havent already, stop eating your cream, butter, full fat or even reduced fat milk, cheese, sausages, biscuits, cakes, anything with pastry, palm oil.

If you want hints on how to swap some of your family favs to Swank or low fat alternatives, go to my Diet pages.

The need for Mindfullness

The benefits of Mindfulness are becoming well accepted, including in the 2000 study Mindfulness of movement as a coping strategy in multiple sclerosis: A pilot study. And the practice of Mindfullness is becoming mainstream across a large number of professions and classrooms.

But what does it mean for multiple sclerosis? Well, when she said less stress, less falls, less pain, she had my attention.

We did practice doing six long breathes. It didnt change my world, but it is something quick and easy that I can incorporate every couple of hours either at work or dealing with teens.

In Conclusion

So, based on the work of Nicola Graham, you can eat well and be well even with multiple sclersosis. To that end I recommend the following papers and websites:

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